It’s important when life gets “too stressful” you do something to make you feel better…. I needed to pull in the big guns –
November 5 2012
I wanted to have a picture with the “cook”, the head of the Freedom Academy high schools cafeteria.. Very special woman, she took it upon herself to make an extra special real family style expanded breakfast menu.. eggs, sausage, grits and more. She knew the students and teacher would enjoy. For some maybe the first really good meal they have had since the hurricane. Everyone in the building has been affected by hurricane Sandy..
Thank you Chancellor and Mr. Mayor – it was great that we could all get back to school today. The free cafeteria meals for the student.. very nice
Objective: Find Mr. Perfect..
Way back in January I made some lofty goals when I announced that I was ready for a new relationship in my life. I had my laundry list of key items. Someone who can make me smile, who appreciates my interests, my dog Monty and my children. To be swept off my feet by a handsome man who appreciates me, and who appreciates life. Likes my friends, I’m looking for a partner who can turn off his thoughts about work and simply focus on the joy of being together. Someone who is truly “present” for me. Who appreciates life and wants to embrace it as much as I do. I want a man who is comfortable in his own skin and truly able to connect, to let down his “Berlin wall” when it comes to his emotions. A man like that is able to express and experience love, and understands the importance of commitment. Also, I love music and I love to dance, and I want a partner who shares those pleasures too.
I was well aware that relationships don’t happen overnight, of course. My friends told me how hard to find someone. I needed to lower my expectations. I was prepared. Let’s “get real” when you reach this point in life if you don’t have any baggage — previous marriages or relationships, children, and so on — then you haven’t lived much of a life. I heard too many horror stories. I knew a large percentage of the men were looking for a good time, a physical relationship with no strings attached. I really didn’t want to do it. Was convinced that it would not be a good experience. I was NOT going to meet any one.
On-line Dating the New Blind Date! Why not?
My first step was to sign up with Match.com for only one month and Jdate.com 6-months – it was the best bang for my dollar. Set up a profile on OkCupid, which is a free dating site. I didn’t devote attention to that site, I wanted to get the full value out of the sites I paid for. All my profiles and pictures were the same. I had no idea how it worked. (Important tip for first timers: make sure you check the unsubscribe box. If you don’t you are locked in at the price you paid for a year.)
Can people see my profile?
How I thought it would work is that guys would do the “department store” thing” and reach out asking me for my number. Duck soup from there it would be like back to the old fashion traditional way. Didn’t think I would have a problem. How wrong was I? That month my conversion rate Match.com 28% and JDate.com 23%. To calculate conversion, add all contacts like Emails, Winks, IM’s favorites divided by the total number of views. Match.com site boys appeared to like me more. All of those contacts were not Jewish. That didn’t surprise me because I was never a big hit with the Jewish boys. Some things never change I guess.
What amazed me was the quality of the contacts on both sites. I was not prepared for an over alarming number of “Yummy”, “I know, I know, I’m too young. Still can’t help but stop by to say that you are absolutely gorgeous.” Please it baffled me why someone similar in age to my children would be remotely interested in someone my age. “How would you like to come to PHL for lunch say Thurs? I love the Fountain Room at the Four Seasons. After lunch it will be easy”. For the first time, I felt like a piece of meat. I thought that was not acceptable behavior; I didn’t like the way it made me feel.
So this is where I discovered I’m not popular on-line!
The first month on on-line dating sites was an eye opener. Everyone I knew on the dating sites was doing much better than me. They were getting nice emails from boys and actually talking on the phone. Getting asked out on dates. I came to the conclusion that I was just not popular or the type of girl you wanted to take out based on on-line dating standards. I needed help. With my BFF’s support and encouragement I took a different approach. Only having to focus on one site JDate.com was less overwhelming. 5 months to go. Back in high school my friends and me would take out the yearbook and pick out the boy we liked. The new updated grown up 2012 version “dinner and a bottle of wine” going on-line and check out boys on JDate.com with your friends. I have nothing to say and failed at flirting. My BFF became my Cyrano de Bergerac emailing the cute boys. Everyone I knew had luck doing this. None of those boys respond to my emails. Who cared we had blast doing it!
My profile is not working. Why not stretch the truth?
A year, 2, ok 4!
I changed my profile description several times. Boys don’t like to read too much – less is more is a much better approach. Changed the pictures and added a few. You need to be on the site all the time, be an active participate. I couldn’t and did not do that. Discovered my age was a problem too. NO one is looking for someone my age 55. Except the young boys that think women my age are interested. It did not matter how good I presented myself they were not looking for me. I lowered my age to 51 to see if that helped. Come to find out everyone does it. Don’t be surprised if the guy you are dating is actually 6 years older than he says he is. Pictures are never as current as they say. Wish the whole on-line experience was more honest and real. Think the actually success rate would be greater. Michael Buble “Haven’t met you yet” became my theme song.
To my surprise I developed some email friendships with a few nice boys: all geographically undesirable not romantic just flirtatious friends. I started to enjoy talking to boys again via email. I never was good at it and needed to not let my shyness get in the way. I’ve been married with children so long I guess I stopped having funny silly flirtatious conversations. I learned to talk about simple things like movies or favorite food, to exercise schedules, and baseball. Their emails made me smile and blush in a good way. Like when I was a teenager. That is when I started to notice the change in me.
I fell in love with ME………
I was clueless and understood something was missing in me. What was missing? More important can I get it back? I wanted it back! I asked all my dearest friends to help. I had a village… The past few summers I spent in Europe. I really never embraced New York. I have been hiding, afraid, delaying re-entering the world as long as I could. My world was safe, I was protected from being hurt. I was so busy focusing on work and finding me. Yes, healing too. I needed to start being single in New York City. I was so ready to have fun. Life is too short, fun and happiness are just too important. This summer I promised myself that I would stay in New York and look for romance. Making New York City home my priority. I started playing a lot of tennis at Central Park actively expanded the people I play tennis with. I started playing doubles, which I had not done since I starting playing back in June of 2010. Biking, hanging with friends. Working hard to have a nice healthy balanced life. Laughing a lot. Started dressing like I did in Europe. We always wore sundresses. Even got heals! Dressing like a girl again. I made Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe” my new theme song. Boy! It gave me courage. I started to have fun! I made sure I took pictures everywhere I went. You could see me transform. Finally, I had the perfect profile picture. From the instant I posted that picture I became much more popular. Regretfully, the contacts are still discouraging but I have met some nice, interesting boys. Yes, I have even had some really great dates.
Advice from one on-line dater to another….
I have come to the end of the JDate.com subscription. I will not be renewing my subscription. Why? It’s not for me. I learned a lot in the last 6 months. I have changed. What was missing was my “groove”. That something special inside that makes me sparkle.
Glad I did it though. It was a very positive experience. I recommend that others try online dating too. It takes 6 plus months. Don’t get discouraged. Do it with someone if you can. Share because it makes it fun! When you give them your number, like in the old days, they don’t always call. It has nothing to do with you. Don’t worry, there are some really nice guys too.
“No sex before the third date,” Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmo, a great rule about not rushing into anything. I agree never rush into anything. Dating at this stage of my life is completely different. Recently, a male friend talked to me about how men envision the natural stages of dating.
Meet…. Get to Know…. Do you like?…. Pleasure…. Key love each other do or dead.. Guess that means you’re going to see where it goes..
On-line dating was a huge help in understanding the male perspective, I realized there is a miscommunication between men and women. This miscommunication causes unease in the beginning of relationships. With the women I know the order of the natural stages of dating is different. Pleasure is last… Pleasure for most women is for committed relationships only.
It’s important for you to remember the man sitting next to you at that moment may not have your best interest at heart. Especially when you’re not together. The only thing they really want is physical relationship. You really don’t know him. DO NOT EVER do anything that you would not be able to look your self in the mirror the next day. Nothing is worth that.
Be prepared to go on a lot of first dates. There is nothing wrong in ending a date early if it’s not working for you. Be nice and kind but if doesn’t work don’t try. Go with your gut instincts it’s always right. Have fun! No expectations.
Who will be the next Mr. Perfect?
My friends were right it hard to find someone. No never lower your expectations. That laundry list of key items is “must”. I like to believe that there is special someone. I’m going to continue enjoying my adventure; now open to trust and believe in falling in love. Romance … Happy ever after… Mr. Perfect will make sure I notice him.. I have a feeling he will be able to swept me off my feet… it’s still all about that special chemistry between two people that make it perfect magic….. A bonus, like the icing on the cake.
At this stage of my life that would be amazing!
Jewish HERores – Incredible Jewish women doing inspiring work in their communities and beyond.
Susanne Veder Berger has parlayed her passion for inspiring others into life-changing mentoring work at Brooklyn’s Freedom Academy, a struggling inner-city high school.
Meet Susanne Veder Berger–a hero to the students of a struggling Brooklyn high school, and no stranger to challenges herself. This author, executive, mother, mentor spent decades literally hiding her face from the world because of a large “port wine stain” birthmark that covered half her face. (The mark was eventually removed through laser surgery). After enduring a bitter divorce, she reinvented herself and supported her children by becoming a successful marketing executive for a number of companies and organizations. Berger did find love again, but lost her husband to heart disease in 2010. She channeled her grief into writing and soon discovered how fulfilling it can be to share words of encouragement and inspiration with others………. http://www.jwmag.org/page.aspx?pid=3339
In the first two parts of this essay, I wrote about a new Harvard essay offering scientific proof for what many of us have known for years – that eating in a nutritious way and getting regular exercise can prolong your life. After looking at why it’s so easy to resist this common sense approach to life, I explained how keeping a journal in which you record everything you eat and drink and the activity you engage in each day can help you make small changes that will enhance your health, energy and lifespan.
When seeking a motivating reason to improve their health, many people say “I’ll do it for my children.” I’m not sure that this is such a good idea, however. You really need to make these changes for you – and not someone else. It’s great to be a role model for your children, to encourage them to develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime – but be sure to take these actions for yourself, not your children. Do it because you acknowledge that you are important. A lot of people – especially women – sometimes feel guilty if they spend even a moment doing something for themselves. It’s time to get over that.
Also, support groups like Weight Watchers and A.A. can be helpful, of course, but I strongly encourage you to make sure that you’re making the changes in your life because you know that you deserve it and because you feel the results, not because – as part of a group – you’re “supposed” to be doing these things. If you quit smoking for the benefit of your children, once they’re grown and out of the house, you may easily pick up those cigarettes once again. If you’ve curbed your eating because you’re a member of a diet club, once your friend drops out of the club, there’s a great risk that you’ll fall right off the wagon yourself.
If you just look around, you can easily find plenty of reasons to motivate yourself to take action. You can easily see what happens when people don’t limit the amount they eat each day, and you can see what happens when they don’t make exercise a regular habit. You can also see medical photographs of the diseased lungs of lifelong smokers. These are all compelling reasons to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Also, if you’re not taking action for yourself, it can be very easy to join a friend in overindulging when life feels stressful – whether that means digging into a big carton of ice cream, or some other destructive behavior. Misery loves company.
You need to step into these changes with strength and determination, and in a way that will last. In the past, you may have told your friends that you were skipping dessert “because I’m on a diet.” Chances are good that your friends were not surprised to hear this, because they fully expected that within just a few weeks you’d be back off your diet and joining them for dessert once again. It’s time to stop this “yo-yo” behavior, and make a permanent change in your behavior instead. Don’t “diet” because you want to fit into that special dress. Instead, adjust the way that you eat on an ongoing basis, so that you can literally add years to your life. Don’t experiment with “juicing” as a fad, but instead create meals that include plenty of fruits and vegetables with the intention that you’ll be doing this for years to come. Embracing these new habits with the right attitude means that you won’t be slipping easily back into your old habits.
This is a “back to basics” plan for health and fitness. I’m not asking you to run a marathon. I’m asking you to walk up and down a few flights of stairs. I’m asking you to be observant, not in denial. Pay attention to the number of calories that you’re consuming at each meal, and be honest with yourself about how they add up. I’m also not asking you to deprive yourself of the things that make life joyful. In fact, I think you’ll find that by making a few simple changes, you’re actually adding more joy to your life.
I use the word “joy” because attitude and emotion are important ingredients if this plan is going to work for you. Just as you’re making careful notes in your journal, notice if you tend to complain a lot. Complaining often leads to the behavior we’re trying to address here – overeating, drinking too much, and indulging in other bad habits. Instead, tell people what you love about your life and what you’re grateful for. You may find that this takes a little effort at first, but soon it will come easily and naturally.
For those of you worried that I’m asking you to make big changes in your life, I have some good news for you. I’m actually opposed to making drastic changes that are big. Those who are passionate about running know that it can be dangerous to overdo it. Making little changes, however, can put you on a great path.
Like the mice in the Harvard study, it’s time for us all to start adding years to our lives – and adding joy and energy. As I’m sure you’ve concluded, the most important ingredient to making this plan work is you. I believe you’re capable of great things, and I look forward to hearing your story, and to celebrating your new life!
In Part I of this essay, I wrote about a new Harvard essay offering scientific proof for what many of us have known for years – that eating in a nutritious way and getting regular exercise can prolong your life. After looking at why it’s so easy to resist this common sense approach to life, I suggested that starting a journal in which you record everything you eat and drink and the activity you engage in each day can provide a framework for the small changes that will enhance your health, energy and lifespan.
One small change you might make in your daily routine is to take the stairs at work, rather than the elevator. You may notice a few people looking at you a bit quizzically. Oddly, some people look down on those who walk rather than drive. After all, they must be thinking, if you’re wealthy enough to own a car, why not use it? If there’s a perfectly good elevator in our office building, why the heck are you using the stairs? Years ago, when I first moved to New York, I used to walk everywhere and many people thought I was crazy. They thought that perhaps I couldn’t afford a car. It’s amazing how creative some people can be when coming up with excuses to avoid exercise!
At this point, if you’ve taken the bold step of avoiding the elevator and doing a bit more walking, it’s time to start measuring your distance. When my son and daughter were young, and it felt like I was constantly running after them, I bought a pedometer. With this handy and inexpensive device, you can see how far you’ve walked each day. The next step, of course, is to increase that distance. Stepping into health is all about making small, incremental changes and then taking it a bit further each week.
Now that we’ve made a small change to the amount of exercise you get each day, it’s time to look at what you’re eating. Once again, let’s start with making one small change. If you want to start eating healthier meals, the best thing to do is to make these meals yourself at home. Many people imagine that cooking in their very own kitchen will be infinitely more complicated than going to a restaurant or – horrors! – stopping for a quick, fast food meal. Cooking at home doesn’t need to be complicated, however. There are many wonderful cookbooks and recipes that you can find online that consist of three simple ingredients. It’s time to disengage from a life of “Super-Sizing” your meal and instead find how enjoyable it can be to prepare your own healthy meals. This is also the only way that you can accurately keep track of calories, and that’s important.
Once you’ve started to make these simple changes in your daily routine, you’re going to start feeling proud of yourself – and you should. But it’s not yet time to make bold announcements about the amazing way that you’ve reshaped your life. Keep making notes in your journal about how you’re spending your day, but be patient about sharing your excitement. You want to savor the rewards of increased energy and a noticeable change in your weight and fitness level. I suggest that you wait for friends and family to start noticing the “new you” – and believe me, it won’t take long for this to happen.
If you’re a smoker, you may be hoping that I’d forget to address this important subject. Sorry, but I’m here to tell you what you surely already know. It’s time for you to kick the habit – and I know it’s not easy to do that. I was a smoker too, and there was one day that was the turning point for me. I didn’t try to taper off, but instead I realized that it was time to stop smoking once and for all. I made a long list of reasons why it was “a must” for me to quit, and I did. Just like the notes you’ve been taking in your journal, it’s time to take an honest and accurate look at what it means to be a smoker – from the smell of your clothes and the people who avoid you, to the harsh fact that you’re choosing to take years off your life because of this destructive habit. It’s time to stop – and the benefits that you’ll experience (increased energy, the joy of rediscovering tastes and smells that seemed lost forever) will make you glad you did.
What’s required in order to make these gradual changes is nothing less than a shift in how you look at life. There can be no doubt that we live in an age of instant gratification. Infomercials promise us that we can develop “six-pack abs in only 15 minutes,” and commercials for fast food skillfully avoid the subject of nutrition. If you’re really going to embrace a healthier way of living, however, you’re going to need to start thinking about the long-term effects of what you put into your body as well as the consequences of successfully avoiding exercise. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll start feeling the benefits of your efforts sooner than you might expect – and once you reach that point, it will be much easier to stay on track.
Needless to say – whether it’s eating nutritious meals or taking steps to have a happier relationship with loved ones — you’re the one who needs to take action to create a better life. No one can do it for you.
It’s tempting to seek the help and support of doctors when we’re thinking about moving our life in a more positive direction – and there’s no doubt that there are times when medical treatment is vital – but I’d like to discourage you from seeking out a “diet pill” in order to lose weight or “a patch” to help you quit smoking. Personally, unless you’re in a very delicate state, I’m convinced that we can each reclaim and improve our health through the kind of small, incremental steps I’ve been telling you about. Instead of pills, we need decisions. You need to decide that you’re going to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and that you’ll have water with your meal instead of that “Big Gulp”soft drink.
In Part III of this essay, I’ll focus on why attitude is so important to successfully adopting new, healthier habits – and how these changes can bring a new, joyous edge to your daily life.
Unless you subscribe to the scientific journal “Nature,” chances are that you may have missed the announcement of one of the biggest breakthroughs of our age. Scientists at Harvard University’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have concluded that it’s actually possible to reverse the aging process. True, this breakthrough was discovered in a study involving mice — not human beings — but the finding is reason for all of us to be excited nonetheless! The study echoes common sense, of course — because I think we’ve all known for many years now that if we quit smoking, get plenty of exercise, and eat in a healthy way, we’ll maintain a high level of energy and remain relatively disease free well into our later years. What I find most remarkable, however, is not this dramatic news from the medical research community that it’s actually possible to “turn the clock back” and reclaim our health, but the fact that so many of us have been ignoring this common sense advice for years, sometimes decades.
Why, then, don’t we live our lives in a way that supports our health and wellbeing? The simple and frustratingly illogical answer is because “it’s not cool.” For several generations now, it has been “cool” to embrace a lifestyle that includes smoking, drinking and sometimes even (legal and illegal) drugs. Most of us went through one or more of these phases too, so we’re not in a position to claim that we were immune from this pressure ourselves during our younger years. The problem, of course, is that many young men and women who neglect and even assault their health during their younger years never change their ways. They continue these destructive habits into their college years and beyond.
A lot of these bad habits offer us a much-needed escape from life’s pressures. Young mothers often are embarrassed about the changes their bodies are (quite naturally) going through during this phase of life, and taking a cigarette break or joining the girls to enjoy a cocktail often seems to make it all easier to take. Young men, facing the pressures of building new careers and still adjusting to the new demands of family life, succumb to the desire to escape too. When it comes to over-eating, still an epidemic in this country, many of the so-called solutions turn out to be totally ineffective, with the result that millions of men and women are engaged in a lifelong pattern of frustrating “yo-yo dieting.” As the mice in the Harvard study would tell you if they could, this kind of lifestyle is not one to aspire to.
Living a healthy lifestyle is easy for some of us, and harder for others. When I was in my thirties, many of my friends were starting to get sick from neglecting and abusing their bodies and I didn’t want to fall into the same trap. Around this time, I also began to notice that having a healthy state of mind could make a major difference too. A number of my friends were good about exercising, but they were highly stressed and didn’t feel good about themselves – and they were getting sick as often as those who didn’t exercise at all. They all had plenty of excuses, of course, but this didn’t really matter. Many of these friends were suddenly showing their age, and even in my thirties I was determined to remain as youthful and energetic as possible. I also believe that it’s easier to get on the right track earlier in life when it comes to taking care of yourself rather than trying to undo years of damage and neglect later in life.
Many of these friends frequently complained that exercising and sticking to a healthy diet is difficult, but I disagree. The truth is that staying healthy is a simple matter of common sense. As St. Augustine wisely advised nearly two thousand years ago, “everything in moderation” is the secret to a wonderful life. My friends who frequently indulged in smoking, drinking too much and overeating – and those who did nothing to reduce the stress in their lives — continued to deteriorate. Many of them developed arthritis, diabetes and a variety of other health problems – and they’re well on their way, of course, to paying the “ultimate” price for this kind of abuse and neglect. It’s time for all of us to understand the consequences of too much sugar, too much alcohol, and too many calories – because failure to understand how the various pieces of “the health puzzle” fit together can literally be fatal. On the other hand, taking action to incorporate this knowledge into your daily life can reverse the damage. All it takes is simply being conscious.
If I’ve inspired you to ask what you can do to start reclaiming your health, the answer is simple. Make a list. For seven days, write down absolutely everything you eat and drink, and also make careful note of your activity – walking, using the stairs, sitting in front of your television for three hours, and so on. During this week, don’t do anything differently because the idea is to take an accurate look at the way you’re living your life right now – and this assessment will probably shock you.
Now that you have your list, as you start your second week, it’s time to make one small change in your normal routine. Remove one thing that is bad for you – something you eat or drink, or some way that you avoid exercise – and replace it with something that is good for you. (Be sure to continue making notes each day just as you did during week number one.)
For example, if you’re in the habit of using the elevator at work, it’s time to start using the stairs. Even if your office is only on the fourth floor, this simple change is an improvement over a daily routine that is completely sedentary. You may be surprised to find other people doing the same thing, and you’ll start to notice that you have more energy at work. With this new burst of energy, you’ll find that you’re more productive – and even your boss will be impressed. This all comes from making one simple change in your daily routine.
In the next two parts of this essay, I’ll focus on why it’s so important to make these changes for you – not for your children or your friends, and not because you’ve been told that you “should” make these changes to your lifestyle. I’ll also discuss why attitude is so important to successfully adopting new, healthier habits – and how these changes can bring a new, joyous edge to your daily life.
In the first two installments of this three-part article, I described how the lessons I learned when facing a variety of personal challenges in my life turned out to be extremely useful in the business world. I discovered that it’s all about people – connecting with them, appreciating them, and really making an effort to understand and help them. As you’ll see in the final part of this article looking at challenges from this perspective can help managers and company owners handle some of the toughest business challenges we face today.
The quality of pride is essential to a successful business — customers taking pride in the fact that they are important and being listened to, and employees taking pride in the products and services they produce. When customers know that their satisfaction matters to a company, they’ll tell everyone they know – and this word of mouth is more valuable than any expensive advertising and marketing campaign. It works that way in small and midsize businesses, too, of course. When I was helping my late husband Sid with his dental practice here in New York, I saw that each and every person that a patient comes in contact with makes a powerful impression — from the receptionist to the dental hygienist. Each of these interactions is a “touch point,” and together they form the experience that each patient has of the dental practice. When a patient feels insignificant and like they don’t count, they’re not likely to remain loyal to that dentist or doctor. It works this way in any kind of business. American business overall needs to recapture this level of pride and care.
Every industry and business sector needs to remember that the pride employees take in their work is very important. The turnaround of America’s auto industry is the latest high-profile example of what’s possible when we encourage employees to take (or reclaim) pride in their work. When I first moved to the U.S. from Canada, whether you were “buying America” was a frequent topic of conversation. It’s time to emphasize this once again. We need to revive the kind of thinking that was dominant when our parents and grandparents were working hard to make America great. The pride that everyone took in the quality of their work was something to be admired, and it’s a quality that’s far too rare these days.
Many senior level executives and CEOs seem to be excited about the innovation and new ideas they’re implementing in their companies, but let’s not forget to let this enthusiasm “trickle down” to the rest of the team. Let’s make sure that all employees who contribute to a company’s success are recognized and appreciated. And remember, enthusiasm and new ideas cost a company nothing — but they can be priceless when it comes to growth, increased revenue and creating more jobs. Keeping each customer in mind every step of the way, as I mentioned earlier, is another essential ingredient in this recipe for growth.
In coming up with a road map for the future, we must be sure to include our young people, of course. I’m a big believer in the value of small business, and I encouraged both of my children to pursue their dreams in terms of the work they choose to do. Now, it’s up to us to create a business climate that’s receptive to their ideas and gives them an opportunity to contribute. An alarming number of recent college graduates not only have to struggle with astronomical student loans bills that must now be repaid, but are also having trouble finding a place where they can put their knowledge and skills to work. The idea of owning their own home — the dream that motivated earlier generations — now seems completely out of reach to most young people.
I also see the great talent and potential in the high school students I work with each week at Freedom Academy in Brooklyn. We must create opportunities for these young people and millions of others just like them to put their talent to work. Those of us who have been engaged in the work force for the past few decades have the wisdom and perspective that’s needed in order to create opportunities for these talented young people. This challenge causes us all a lot of stress, of course, and there are no easy answers — but as the NASA ground control team is rumored to have said during the Apollo 13 crisis, “failure is not an option.”
Until we create a more receptive business environment for our young people, who can blame them for believing that loyalty — to customers and to their company — is an antiquated and irrelevant concept. I’m honored to have an opportunity to offer high school students encouragement and inspiration, but until we can create a business environment that will welcome their contributions, the likelihood that these bright and enthusiastic young people will hit a dead end as they try to put themselves to work remains a serious problem.
Although it may sound like I’m ending this essay on a rather bleak note, the fact is that I really believe there is enormous creativity and ingenuity out there, which can result in some much needed changes in our nation’s business sector. As you can tell, I’m a firm believer that the human spirit is capable of great things and able to solve any problem. Just as people helped me overcome a wide range of challenges in my life, I’m confident that together we can create a business environment in which each individual is valued and one that generates enormous prosperity and opportunity for all of us.
In Part I of this three-part article, I described how the lessons I learned when facing a variety of personal challenges in my life turned out to be extremely useful in the business world. I discovered that it’s all about people – connecting with them, appreciating them, and really making an effort to understand and help them. As you’ll see in part two of this article, looking at challenges from this perspective can help managers and company owners handle some of the toughest business challenges we face today.
The respect that business leaders have for each individual member of their team can also make a huge difference internally, especially when challenges arise. In my work with the U.S. Tennis Association, for example, I not only ran the organization’s membership department but I was also asked to assist in the delicate process of closing one of their Departments. In mergers and consolidations, employees often feel shortchanged and mistreated, and I was determine to do everything possible to treat the employees in this department humanely and support them in finding fulfilling jobs outside the company. In a department of 24 people, the organization was only planning to retain three of those employees following the consolidation. Over an 18-month period, I retrained all two dozen of these employees so that they each had a strong and competitive resume and were better equipped to find a new job once they were let go.
Another thing I’ve learned in working with people for so many years is that we all need stimulation and variety. It’s important to have a change in our routine every once in awhile, especially in jobs that are very repetitive. Without breaking things up a bit and giving hard-working people a chance to catch their breath, there’s a greater chance for mistakes — and employee “burn out” is almost inevitable. In addition, the most fulfilling jobs are those that allow an employee to be “a constant learner.” We all need to grow and evolve. (I certainly never thought that I’d be a writer, yet that’s the role I find myself in today!) Also, when you give employees a chance to grow and learn new skills, it lets them know that you have faith in them and that they’re appreciated, and we all flourish when someone believes in us.
Just as everyone likes to be appreciated, no one likes to feel inferior — that they’re less important than the executives they report to. In my work with the call centers at various companies, I made it a point to really get involved in the work that was being done at each center. I’d handle customer calls myself, and join the employees in the lunchroom and in their training classes. This sent the signal that we’re all on the same team and lets them know that their work is respected and appreciated. Also, when the employees see that you can be flexible, they’re more willing to be flexible too — and accommodate changes that allow the company to grow and succeed.
Growth and flexibility are essential if a company is to remain successful, of course — especially when it comes to customer service. The decline of the once mighty Kodak Corporation is a great example of what can happen to a company when it fails to evolve with the times, and fails to keep in tune with customer needs and desires.
We all need to evolve on an individual level too, not just as a department or as a company. When I began working with the companies I mentioned earlier, the emphasis was on catalogs that were sent out to the customers on a mailing list. Now, of course, that information is handled by computer.
The importance of caring about the individuals on that mailing list hasn’t changed, just the way that we handle that information. The goal is still effective communication and a rapport that results in sales. It’s still just as important to let each and every customer know that they matter, and that they haven’t been lost in the shuffle.
In Part III – the final part of this article — I’ll explain why it’s so important to remember that each and every person who comes in contact with a customer or client shapes that experience, for better or worse. I’ll also discuss why it’s essential that we create opportunities for young people where they have a chance to bring their unique talents to the table and have a voice in the work that they do.